Saturday, April 17, 2010

Resurrection of the Flesh

Today's Gospel Reading (John 21:1-12), following on from last week, emphasises the objective reality of the resurrection of Jesus. This is no mere "mystical" or "spritual" experience the Apostles had. It is history - real history, and Jesus had impressed upon them the reality of his resurrection body, a point emphasised by the following quotes from today's pew bulletin.

WILLIAM BARCLAY (1907-1978):

This chapter [John 21] was added to the already finished gospel . . . to demonstrate once and for all the reality of the Resurrection. There were many who said that the appearances of the Risen Christ were nothing more than visions which the apostles had.

Many would admit the reality of the visions, but would insist that they were still only visions. Some would go further and would say that they were not visions but hallucinations. Now, the gospels go far out of their way to insist that the Risen Christ was not a vision, not an hallucination, not even a spirit, but a real person. The gospels insist that the tomb was empty. The gospels insist that the Risen Christ had a real body which still bore the marks of the nails nand the sword thrust in his side.

But this story goes a step further. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to point out a shoal of fish to a party of fishermen. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to kindle a charcoal fire on the seashore. A visions or a spirit would not be likely to cook a meal and to share it out. And yet, as to story has it, the Risen Christ did all these things. When John tells how Jesus came back to his disciples when the doors were shut, he says: "He showed them his hands and his side." (John 20:20). Ignatius (3rd Bishop of Antioch who died around 107 AD), when he was writing to the Church at Smyrna, relates an even more definite tradition about that. He says: "I know and believe that [Jesus] was in the flesh even after the Resurrection, and when he came to Peter and his company, he said to them: 'Take, handle me, and see that I am not a bodiless demon.' And straightway they touched him, and they believed, for they were firmly convinced of his flesh and blood... And after his Resurrection he ate and drank with them as one in the flesh."

... The Resurrection was not a vision; it was not the figment of someone's excited imagination; it was not the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death and who had come back.

"What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands, we proclaim now to you" (1 John 1:1). The apostles speak about things which they have not sought but which unexpectedly surrounded them; about the fact which they did not discover but, so to speak, unexpectedly found them and seized them... While they were fishing, Jesus appeared to them and cautiously and slowly introduced them to a new vocation in the service of himself. At first, they did not believe him but they, still more cautiously and slowly with fear and hesitation and much wavering, came toward him and recognized him. Until the apostles saw him many times with their own eyes and until they discussed him many times among themselves and, until they felt him with their own hands, their experienced fact is supernatural but their method of recognizing this fact is thoroughly sensory and positively learned.... The apostles saw not only one miracle but numerous miracles. They heard not only one lesson but many lessons which could not be contained in numerous books. They saw the resurrected Lord for forty days; they walked with him, they conversed with him, they ate with him, and they touched him. In a word: they personally and first handedly had thousands of wondrous facts by which they learned and confirmed one great fact, i.e., that Jesus is the God-Man, the Son of the Living God, the Man-loving Saviour of mankind and the All-Powerful Judge of the living and the dead.

C.S. LEWIS (1898-1963):
Jesus has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because he has done so.


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